Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tennessee Whiskey Pork Loin

This will be the most tender, flavorful, juicy pork loin you will have ever tasted!  I was flipping through channels one night and came across BBQ University with Steven Raichlen.  If you don't already have his best-selling Barbecue Bible cookbook, you really should consider adding it to your cookbook collection.  In any case, Steve was at his usual post at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, where the show is typically filmed and was making a very large version of this pork loin roast.  Someday I'd love to attend the three-day course he offers at the Broadmoor on "live fire cooking."  If this roast is any example of the results, you'll want to enroll too!

I'm not sure if it's the whiskey, the rub, the insertion of flavorings in the center of the rub or the bacon wrapping that does it, but I assure you this will be by far the best pork loin you've ever tasted.

Serves: 6

1 center-cut piece or pork loin (2-1/2 to 3 pounds)
3 tablespoons Tennessee whiskey (may substitute with other whiskey)
4 tablespoons Julian's BBQ Rub  or any reasonable facsimile
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
4 slices bacon
Butcher's string
2 cups of wet hickory wood chunks (optional)

3 tablespoons salted butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons Tennessee whiskey


If you haven't already done so, make a batch of my BBQ Rub and set aside.

Make the glaze by combining the butter, brown sugar, mustard, and whiskey in a saucepan and boil until thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Using a sharp knife, cut the roast almost in half lengthwise through one side (stop about 1 inch from the opposite side). Open the roast up as you would a book. Sprinkle the inside of the roast with 1 tablespoon of the whiskey and let it marinate for 5 minutes. Sprinkle a 1 tablespoon of the rub over the inside of the roast. Spread the mustard on top with a spatula, then sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the mustard. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of whiskey on top of the brown sugar. Fold the roast back together and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of rub over the outside.

Cut four 12-inch pieces and one 18 inch piece of butcher's string. Position the 12-inch pieces of string on the work surface so that they are parallel and roughly 2 inches apart. Lay the last string across the four short strings at their center.  Place a slice of bacon across the long string so that it will run the length of the roast from end to end.  Don't worry if the bacon is longer than the roast.

Set the roast on top of the bacon about in its center. Place a slice of bacon on top of the roast. It may hang down the sides. Press the remaining 2 slices against the long sides of the roast. Use toothpicks to temporarily hold them in place until the string is attached.  Tie each piece of string together around the roast so that they hold the slices of bacon against it. Tie the long string capturing and holding in place the bacon that was longer than the roast, so you have a moderately tight package.  Remove the toothpicks and sprinkle the remaining rub as needed to fully cover the roast.  Set aside.

Set up the grill for indirect grilling and preheat to medium. If using a gas grill, place all of the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch, and run the grill on high until you see smoke; then reduce the heat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in the center, preheat the grill to medium, then toss all of the wood chips or chunks on the coals.

When ready to cook, place the pork roast on the hot grate away from the heat, and cover the grill.

Start basting the roast with the glaze after 30 minutes, and continue basting every 15 minutes. If you are using a charcoal grill and the pork is not done after 1 hour, you'll need to add 12 fresh coals to each side.

Cook the pork for 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Insert an instant-read meat thermometer into the center of the roast to test for doneness, which should be about 160F degrees.

Transfer the cooked roast to a cutting board with a juice reservoir and let it rest for 10 minutes.  The juices should run clear and be captured for use in the glaze.  Pour off any juice and stir into the remaining glaze.

Remove and discard the strings. Slice the roast crosswise and drizzle the remaining glaze over it.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Spaghetti ~ Glass Snaplock Storage

My cooking techniques and the fresh ingredients I use change with the seasons.  As we head into Autumn, a homemade pasta sauce of sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts and fresh oregano is a welcome change from all of the grilled foods I have been making.  This sauce was inspired by Lidia Bastianich of Lidia's Italy which I watch on PBS whenever I  can.  If you haven't ever see the shows you really should.  Many are part travelogue and part cooking show.

Inspired by Chef Lidia
I say this is 'inspired' by Lidia, as I watched her make something similar.  Several weeks later I attempted to replicate what I had seen without looking it up on her website.  On several of her programs she toasts some breadcrumbs in a skillet and tosses them onto the pasta after it's about ready to serve.  I was skeptical at first.  But just as she says, they add the perfect little crunch and now I frequently do this whenever I make pasta, particularly if it is one with a light sauce.  I use that on this sauce as well.  Give it a try.

This recipe is also perfect for vegetarians.  Simply use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and serve with a garden salad.  I make it both with meatballs and as a Meatless Monday dish.  I prefer to use fresh oregano, but if your garden has a surplus of fresh basil you can substitute as noted.

This is a recipe that requires a food processor.  In most of my recipes I use the processor only as a convenience and give you the option of slicing and dicing by hand.  But for this one there really is no way around having a standard sized food processor.  If you don't it's best to select another recipe.

1 pound thick spaghetti
10 ounce jar of sun dried tomatoes in oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup (3-4 ounces) pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup fresh oregano (basil can be substituted)
1 cup fresh Parmesan cheese plus more for garnishing (grated)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Panko-style bread crumbs, seasoned

Place the sun dried tomatoes with their oil in the bowl of a food processor fitting with the chopping blade.  Add the tomato paste, nuts, garlic, oregano and Parmesan cheese (reserving a bit of the cheese for garnish.)  Run the processor until a thick paste forms.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  While it heats, place the a large deep skillet over medium heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and when warmed, add the chopped onion.  Saute for 3-5 minutes stirring regularly until the onions are soft and translucent.  Add the tomato pesto to the skillet and heat for another minute, stirring regularly  Add the stock and stir in.  Heat to simmering, reduce heat to low and cover, stirring occasionally.

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to a small saute pan set over moderate heat.  Toss in the bread crumbs and stir constantly until they are golden brown.  Add seasoning (salt, pepper, granulated garlic) if they were not pre-seasoned.

When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions until the spaghetti is just barely al dente.  You will continue to cook it in the sauce for another minute or two, so do not over cook it in the water.  Using tongs move the al dente pasta directly into the hot tomato pesto and turn to coat.  Add pasta water if needed to loosen the spaghetti and the correct consistency is reached.  Heat for a minute or two longer, and plate.  Sprinkle each serving with the toasted breadcrumbs and serve with the remaining grated Parmesan cheese.

Glassware Snaplock Storage Container
Now you may be wondering why I've shown the above photo, but if you haven't considered these storage containers you really should.  I'll never buy another type of storage container again.  I've had the above set for several years and they are still going strong.  No staining and they really do lock shut tight to keep food fresh.  You can get them many places and they are even available on Amazon.  I liked the 20 piece set so much I purchased another one for our home in St. Thomas.  I mention this here because I've had several comments from our guests asking where I got them.  Once you try them I think you'll love them too. Glass storage containers with tight fitting lids.  Perfection!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

BBQ Turkey Wings and Legs ~ Disney style!

Think Autumn and you think turkey; at least I do.  While it may be a bit too early for the full roasted bird, it's just about the perfect time to make some turkey wings or legs.  With summer waning I start to get tired of the classic burgers, brats and steaks on the grill and turn my attention to the (Disney) classic turkey legs or wings.

Justin serves up a Disney turkey leg.
"Disney classic" you say?  You must not have been to the famous theme parks if you are unfamiliar with the barbecued wonders.   If you have been, then you know they are a crowd favorite and pretty much available in every single U.S. Disney theme park.  To start they are very big, and they are smoked and barbecued.  They really are quite tasty, but whatever process they use to make them certainly increases their calorie count.  Although at nearly $10 per leg, I suppose you should get the 1,000 calories they entail.  If you want to imitate the Disney leg, I recommend you visit my fellow blogger here and use his recipe.  As he says, it's about as close as you can get to Disney without actually going there.

For me, the legs are pretty large and even the fresh turkey legs available in our butcher's meat case are more than we can eat.  Some folks do split up the Disney version and surely they are enough for 2-3 people.  But turkey wings, on the other hand, are just about right to serve one per person.  So that's why I make the wings instead of the legs.

It's really a simple method, which is just to rub the wings with olive oil and then sprinkle them with a dry barbecue rub.  This is a perfect time to use the extra rub I encouraged you to make in June.  Just follow the link if you don't have any rub on hand.  Rub the wings generously and place them in a sealed storage back, then refrigerate them for four hours (minimum) or overnight (better.)

On cooking day, heat the grill to only moderately hot (about 300F degrees).  Place the wings on the lightly oiled grates (to prevent sticking) and let them slowly cooking for about an hour.

"The Sweetest Meat is Closest to the Bone"

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Penne Pasta with Roasted Asparagus, Red Pepper and Balsamic Butter

Here's another great recipe for "Meatless Monday" that I picked up from Food and Wine.  It's easy to prepare and provides you with a pasta meal that has a different taste than you usually get with pasta (i.,e., tomato, pesto or cream sauces.)  When I mentioned the balsamic butter sauce to my spouse I got a look of skepticism.  But why I'm not sure as most everyone loves balsamic vinegar.  We surely do!

If you haven't enjoyed it before, it is a velvety, dark brown vinegar that is both sweet and tart and has a complex flavor profile. Its uniqueness comes from the fact that it is made from an un-fermented reduction of cooked white grapes instead of wine.  It's then aged in five different woods, the barrels of which should be at least half a century old. As it ages, the vinegar evolves from a thin fluid to a syrup-like consistency.  A 50-year-old vintage will resemble molasses in its color and thickness, and at that age has become a rare product indeed.  While today you can get facsimiles of the real thing, only in the Emilia-Romania region of Italy and specifically the area in and around Modena can the very finest vinegar be found.  It has been made in this region of Italy since the Middle Ages.

In the store you are ideally looking for "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and "Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia" (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia).  These are protected names by both the Italian Denominazione di origine protetta and the European Union's Protected Designation of Origin.  If budgets a concern, for salads you can also purchase Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico di Modena), a less expensive version of the traditional product.

I've made this dish repeatedly as it was so well received the first time around.  I've added the red pepper and made some minor changes to improve the consistency of the sauce.  We love it and I think your family will enjoy it too!

1 pound asparagus
1 fresh red pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1 pound penne
1/4 pound butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

Heat the oven to 400F degrees. Cut the ends off the asparagus that are tough and dry.  Cut the spears into pieces about the same size as the penne pasta.  Cut and remove the seeds/stem from the red pepper.  Cut into strips then lengths about he size of the peene pasta.  Put the asparagus and red pepper on a baking sheet and sprinkle with oil and 1/4 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 8 minutes.

While it roasts, put the vinegar in a small saucepan. Simmer until 3 tablespoons remain. Stir in the brown sugar and the remaining pepper. Remove from the heat.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just done and still al dente. Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of hot pasta water.  Toss the pasta with the butter, vinegar mixture, asparagus, red pepper, Parmesan, and the remaining salt.  Note: If the vinegar mixture has become to thick, use hot pasta water to thin it.  Serve with additional Parmesan.